Why do men hate church?

Silence, sharing, sitting and singing.

Those are four reasons that men aren’t as likely as women to be found in church on the weekend.

Now, more than ever, there are large numbers of people who consider themselves to be followers of Christ but have given up on church. A lot of those people are men. The scriptures tell us not to give up meeting with other believers but for many, their belief in the God of the Bible doesn’t match up to their experience of church. What are they to do?

Sydney Anglicans published a great article about a month ago about the reasons that men don’t like going to church.

I particularly liked a quote in the article by church planter, Vince Williamson, who likens going to church to the awkward experience of going to a lingerie shop with your wife. “You sit looking for the other men, or enviously through the window to the powertool store across the road. But you can’t go there because you’re holding your wife’s purse!”

The article looks at a range of issues including ‘feminine’ church meeting styles, weak leadership, lack of risk, boredom and a lack of opportunity to get your hands dirty.

Obviously an article like that can only scratch the surface but the subject deserves a closer look. Most churches have a major gender imbalance with women making up 60% or more of the congregation.

My regular Wednesday morning guest on 98.5 Sonshine FM is Ross Clifford is the Principal of Morling College in New South Wales and current President of the Baptist Union of Australia. Each week we chat about a range of issues relating to spirituality and belief.

We looked at some of the issues of men and church this morning. Ross even drew a few lessons from a failed beer commercial. It was interesting to get his perspective on the problems churches face in attracting and engaging men. You can listen to our conversation now by clicking here.

What has your experience been? Are you part of a church that has been able to address the imbalance? Are you a guy who’s given up going to church?

I’d really appreciate your perspective. Please take the time to read through the article and listen to the MP3 of my discussion with Ross and then jot down your thoughts in the comments section below.

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist and blogger from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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23 Comments

  • We have recently discussed this very issue at our church. It is a phenomenon that really does exist and one that we must look at. We have found that what makes the men of our church really come alive is when they are working and serving together. We occasionally have work days around our church. We jokingly call them “man church.” Real worship and fellowship truly takes place at those events. We also do a number of events such as fishing derbies, golf tournaments, etc. that are designed to both foster good fellowship and community among the men as well as great points of contact with men that are not already a part of the church.

    I’m looking forward to hearing your show on the Missional church next week!

  • I think we have a crisis of spirituality among men. We chaps don’t often muse on that side of life as a rule; not our fault though, society expects men to focus on the practical, rugged aspects of life leaving little time for spiritual consideration.

    I think our churches have a role to play in encouraging men to think about their spirituality using imagery that works for men, so that we don’t drift off into thoughts about cars and power tools during the sermon!

    After all we have a very blokey role model who was a skilled manual worker, wasn’t afraid to stand up to bullies, had a temper and faced a gruesome death for other people.

  • I must admit that I resonate with a number of the things here, but I think that if we’re focusing on what’s wrong with out church services, we’re missing the point. I think that the reason that churches aren’t attractive for us blokes is that we want to be a part of something bigger. If all that draws me into church is about singing some songs and hear someone talk about Jesus, then there’s nothing that I’m helping with.

    The times I’m the most proud to be a part of my church are very rarely on a Sunday morning. They’re when I’ve been involved in helping to cut wood for someone, or when I’ve done stuff with our youth, or gone and just been involved in hanging out with other men for the purpose of getting something done.

    I’d like to say more, but it might have to wait – it’s getting late over here in Victoria. Will certainly watch this conversation eagerly

  • I’ve only ever been to one church (the one i was saved at) so as far as i knew, what we did there was the norm for most churches. But i was shocked when i heard a guest preacher make a comment that in the mornings its the women who do 90% of the setup work. we hire a hall so at 7am every Sunday its a group of blokes (myself included) who setup the sound equipment, the creche and kids church.
    doing that makes us feel like we’re doing something major for the church, so if we got our own building we wouldn’t feel that involved anymore. i think what might be lacking is on-going projects that men can be involved in.

  • I think you’ve hit some of the central reasons that men tolerate rather than buy into church services: weak leadership and girly songs figure high on my list – and I’m studying to enter the ministry.

    Jesus was a well-muscled man who swung a hammer, led a band of revolutionaries, and cast vision for thousands. Today’s pastel colors, happy-clappy “worship,” and touchy-feely “leadership” don’t communicate these truths about the savior. Churches that want to recapture the men need to learn to identify spiritual gifts, train men to serve, and empower them to go out and minister. Church should be the place where leaders are multiplied and recognized and vision is cast for new work.

  • If a church is not about families, it is not about the Biblical concept of men. Men as heads of families make up the core body of the church, and very few churches understand this. Because we are saved individually, the church seems to think we must be ministered to individually. As a result, most churches today war against the family, split them up at every opportunity, and pretend that husbands and wives are exactly the same. I honestly think this is discouraging for husbands and wives, but it doesn’t give a man much excuse for not obeying Scripture.

  • Charles: “If a church is not about families, it is not about the Biblical concept of men”. I’m not sure that I can agree. Where does that leave single men? I have a very hard time reading that message into Jesus’ words. Jesus seems to be someone who believed that he had a cause much bigger than family, and if our church is all about families I think we are more likely to alienate men rather than draw them in. I DO however, agree whole-heartedly with what you’re saying about the church treating men and women as the same, and that we focus too greatly on ministering at an individual level.

  • Geoff,
    Let me clarify. When I say families, perhaps I should say households. The concept of family has changed greatly over the years and while every young single man who moves out of his parent’s home is not necessarily a household, a single man can be the head of a household, as can a widow under certain circumstances. However, I do believe that the majority of the church will be households that look much like what we think of as families, though it’s really up to God. Does that make more sense?

    Thanks for pushing back on me, clarification is a good thing.
    Charles

  • A comment in Saturdays West Australian Letters to the Ed caught my eye. On whether or not the Weld Club (a professional gentlemen only club in Perth), should allow women to join, Kerri Staples of Greenwood writes, “Ladies regarded [gentlemen only clubs] as perfectly acceptable and indeed, they had the same respite from husbands and households in the form of the CWA, ladies church groups and others.”

    Let’s face it, Australian men like Kerri generally see the church as something for women. As a pastor this is a constant challenge for me. But being a man it is an easy challenge – I just invite my mates. The women in my church regularly complain (lightheartedly) that the men are always off doing stuff together. Next week us blokes are heading out to an historical machinery park. In the past we’ve hiked the Bibulmun Track, gone fishing, attended financial investment seminars, gone to the movies and more. My opinion is that it’s all about relationships. It’s because the men in our church have worked hard at developiong genuine relationships with other men, that these men are happy to join us in the church, whether that be on a Sunday morning or elsewhere.

    I just did a quick head count and 49.6% of my congregation are male with the remaining 50.4% female (of course!)- pretty much a 50/50 split, which from my understanding reflects the population.

  • Rodney, we don’t have this problem at our church and reading through the solutions in the article, I realized why: we are Presbyterian and we are ruled by an elder board with our pastor being one of the elders. It’s a male-dominated model and I think that makes men feel welcomed. Men and women both teach in Sunday School and volunteer to be ushers and we have plenty of men in our choir. We have a well attended men’s Bible study.

  • I would pretty much agree with the four things mentioned (Silence, sharing, sitting and singing). Thinking back to when I started going to church in 1989, I was very self conscious and not comfortable doing any of those things. Over time that has changed.

    A couple of other thoughts I had at the time was thinking that everyone there had their lives together except me. And that everyone had always gone to church and I was the only one who came in “off the street”. Both of those thoughts were wrong, but what I thought at the time. I am now conscious that others may feel this way too when they come for the first time.

  • I don’t buy the “rugged” thing for a minute. Men, by nature, are worshipping creatures.

    The reason men aren’t going to church is because most men are spending their “worship quotient” on Hustler and internet porn. I write about this in my own blog referenced below.

    Men are very visual, by nature. And it’s hard for them to worship an invisible God, especially when they can stay home and type a few letters into their search engines and come up with a glorious blonde creature to ogle.

    Sexual immorality is rampant in the male population today. Men are simply worshipping the wrong god, that’s all.

  • I wonder if there’s also an aspect of this that has to do with the way men and women react to feelings of obligation. I wonder if perhaps there might be a tendency amongst women to be more likely to stay for longer in a church when the belief goes than men are. Because generally, to be realistic about the state of the church in this country, attendance numbers have more to do with people leaving than people joining.

  • Sorry for rocking in on this a bit late. A couple of points:
    – My experience is that the older and more traditional (not talking about style but the culture) a place gets the more feminised it becomes.
    – Men seem to like the new and the challenging, which for our church seems to mean we have plenty of blokes to set-up pull down, take on the peaks in the world around them
    – Being aware of the problem is half the solution. The vast majority of pastors (public face of most churches) are still male and so systemically there may not be anything too hard to address. Simple things like the language you use, persona you present etc make a huge difference
    – Challenge your men. It’s become part of what we do. We put high expectations on our single blokes, husbands and fathers to step up and lead the way. Most respond to straight talk (after the ego heals). Those that don’t can still be encouraged and mentored along the way.
    – Have fun with your church. Guys will generally be more the ones that will want some laughs and adventure. We have various small groups that do heaps on stuff together which is great for including unsaved friends etc.
    – Where the men go, the nation goes.

  • After reading through some of the other comments, I feel a bit out of place.

    A few years ago I moved to a Greenville, South Carolina which has hundreds of churches. I was a little worried that I might have some difficulty finding a church. I had several requirements that I was looking for in the process, and one of them had specifically to do with the men.

    Right now I can say with absolute truth that the men that I am closest with all really love going to church. It is a highlight of the week.

    I know that this is unique, considering some of the churches that I have attended in the past.

    So, I have been asking myself, since I read your post, Why? I don’t know if I have come up with an answer yet, but I will say that it has nothing to do with exterior things. The men that I am currently acquainted with are all very genuine. We are open and honest with each other and it is good.

    Our actions and attitudes come from the heart. Our love or dislike of the church is out of an overflow of what is already there.

    (I would also agree with Al who commented above.)

  • I have enjoyed reading the different comments on this subject. To me there are some vital questions we need to ask such as: Why is it important that men attend “church”? How are our “church services” equipping men to be followers of Christ? This is a deep issue than just low attendance by men. Perhaps it is an indication that we are not good stewards of the men that are already coming. What good is a church full of men if we are not helping them become Christ Followers?

  • I don’t know that men are “scared” of church as much as it’s irrelevant to where they are. And then we try to be relevant, and that stinks of being fake. But where it rings true, men on fully on board for the most part.

  • Another aspect I think is relevant to consider is that of the traditionally-accepted male leadership roles in church. Traditionally, men are in “authority,” the spiritual leaders of a church. So how does a church end up so feminine?

    This doesn’t make sense to me. Most churches are male-leadership dominated. Yet it appears they lead organizations that don’t appeal to a male audience. I’m not arguing male authority, merely pointing out that authority and responsibility go hand in hand. You’re in charge. Start there.

  • I’m a 36 year old single STRAIGHT guy. I have not had sex, nor will I outside of marriage. If that means I go to heaven a virgin: so be it.

    But most churches think one of the following things:
    1 “he’s gay”
    2 “he’s sleeping around”
    3 “he hates women”
    4 “it’s a sin for a man that old to be unmarried”
    5 “that’s a gal tryng to pass as a guy”
    6 “he’s not a real Christian”
    7 “loser!!!!!111”
    8 “he must have AIDS”
    9 “he can’t get a gal pregnant, that’s why he’s still singe”
    10 two or more of the above

  • Thanks for dropping in, Brian.

    Sounds like you’ve been around some pretty lame churches. I’m so sorry that you feel that people have labelled you in the way you describe.

    I have several unmarried friends around your age and older and I certainly don’t think that about any of them. I hope you’re able to find a group of people to accept you for who you are.

  • Thanks! By the way if you have been praying for a church to accept me as I am:
    I have found one. I have been there only two weeks and I don’t think a friendlier bunch of people this side of Heaven could exist.